On What's Hot:

In America-Santa Barbara County's phenomenal Pinot Noirs and Syrahs. In France-The Southern Rhone, Provence, and Languedoc. The quality from the South is only getting better, and the current vintage,'98, was the best vintage of the '90's. In Italy-Tuscan reds, particularly Rosso di Montalcino; Barberas and Dolcettos coming out of Piedmont; Friuli whites.


Don't panic, this wine's biodynamic


A new winery called Cowhorn is coming on line in the Applegate Valley, and it's different in several ways. It's organic. More than that, it's biodynamic.


"Like organic farming, biodynamic agriculture uses no synthesized herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers," reads the Internet site, www.appellationnyc.com/biodynamic_wine. "Unlike organic farming, though, biodynamic producers build upon the organic base with their adherence to life's rhythms and a self-containing eco-system."

Cowhorn owners Bill and Barbara Steele further explain, "The biodynamic approach includes wholistic practices that vitalize life in the soil, on the land, and in the atmosphere. As such, farming is seen as an integral part of culture (agri-culture) and is integral to the well-being of a community."

"Habitat preservation, water conservation, and the well-being of the Earth factor in to each decision we make," they add.

Unlike some of the newer wine labels in the area, Cowhorn is creating its own winery as opposed to growing grapes and then having the wine made at an existing winery.

And while most the Applegate Valley's wineries are in the area between Ruch and Applegate, or west of Applegate, this one is out toward McKee Bridge and Applegate Lake. It's on Eastside Road.

Cowhorn is the first certified organic and biodynamic farm in Southern Oregon, the Steeles say. When their wines are released, they will be certified as biodynamic. They have hired a full-time winemaker, Linda Donovan.

The complete name is Cowhorn Vineyard & Garden. It's a farm as well as a winery, growing vegetables like asparagus as well as barley and other fruits.

Of the 117-acre property, 11 acres are planted in grapes, 20 in other crops. The Steeles acquired it four years ago. They were not expecting to have a grape harvest this year, but the vineyard grew so well that they had one a year earlier than planned. Currently in barrels are viognier and syrah. Their focus is on Rhone varieties. Also planted there are grenache, roussanne and marsanne.

About 50 cases of viognier should be ready in the middle of 2007, 300 cases of the syrah a year later.

The winery will have a tasting room, open as soon as there is wine to pour. It's on the web at www.cowhornwine.com.

LET'S SAY THE OCCASION calls for sparkling wine but you're not wild about all those bubbles. Try a lighter, semi-sparkling wine. One good candidate is Martini & Rossi Prosecco from Italy. You can tell it's different from the outset — no champagne-style cork restrained by wires. It has a more traditional cork, opened with a corkscrew. The wine is delicate, crisp and relatively light on alcohol. It costs about $14.

Martini & Rossi also have a sweet sparkling wine on the market, one that is more like champagne. It's pleasantly fruity, although some may find it a bit too sweet. Price is around $13.

THE WINE LIST AT PORTERS restaurant in Medford continues to expand and mature. It features 63 wines, 12 of them local and 28 available by the glass. Prices start at $18 a bottle, $4.50 a glass.

Of the local labels, some are quite familiar like Valley View and RoxyAnn, others that you don't often see, like Trium, Red Lily and John Michael Champagne Cellars.

I enjoyed a glass of Valley View Anna Maria Viognier ($7.50) with my salad and Porters Red Cap ($6.95), a local blend of merlot and malbec, with a salmon entrée.

DAVID HILL, A WINERY up near Forest Grove, makes some respectable table wines, a white and a red each retailing for about $9-$10. Two of them are the house wines at Bonsai, a new Japanese restaurant on Barnett Road in Medford. There, they run just under $20 a bottle, or $5 a glass.

The white is a blend of viognier, gewürztraminer, semillon, chardonnay and riesling, while the red mixes cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, sangiovese and lemberger.

I sipped the white with my salad and the red with an entrée of beef tenderloin and shrimp. Other wine labels on the list include Chateau Loraine and Copperidge.

Cleve Twitchell is a retired Mail Tribune editor and columnist. E-mail him at clevelinda@msn.com.

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